Social Issues

End of “Remain in Mexico” brings little cheer to migrants on US border

By Abraham Pineda Jacome

Matamoros, Mexico, Aug 12 (EFE).- The Dulce Refugio Shelter in this city opposite Brownsville, Texas, which opened in 2019 when the United States launched “Remain in Mexico,” a policy migrants seeking asylum to wait south of the border while their applications are processed, is set to close next week due to a lack of resources even as the regional migration crisis grinds on.

The Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) program – its official name – is in the process of winding down, yet uncertainty prevails among the tens of thousands of mainly Central American migrants who find themselves stranded in Mexico.

After more than two years of offering food and lodging to hundreds of migrant families passing through Matamoros, Dulce Refugio is to cease operations on Aug. 20.

“Unfortunately, for economic reasons, we will have to close the shelter. Once we realized we won’t be able to remain open we decided to stop accepting people,” Dulce Refugio’s director, Baptist pastor Abraham Barberi, told Efe Friday.

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Monday that is “committed to ending the court-ordered implementation of MPP in a quick, and orderly, manner.”

The announcement followed the lifting of a court injunction that had forced President Joe Biden to maintain the policy instituted in 2019 by predecessor Donald Trump, who used the threat of trade sanctions to coerce the Mexican government into agreeing to harbor third-country nationals applying for asylum in the US.

The MPP was denounced by human rights organizations and deeply unpopular in Mexico and Biden suspended it soon after taking office in January 2021.

But the states of Texas and Missouri sued the administration and a Trump-appointed federal judge issued an injunction to compel the government to resume the MPP.

The White House challenged the injunction and the Supreme Court ruled in late June that Biden has the authority to end Remain in Mexico.

More than 75,000 migrants were sent back to Mexico while the policy was in force, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

“Individuals are no longer being newly enrolled into MPP, and individuals currently in MPP in Mexico will be disenrolled when they return for their next scheduled court date,” DHS said Monday.

Despite that message, the roughly 120 migrants left at Dulce Refugio are reluctant to say anything about their cases, citing the harshness of US immigration policy and fears of what many regard as persecution in Texas.

“It’s now time for them to do something, yet there is no concrete solution,” Barberi said. “What’s going to happen to the people here, what is the next step?”

Matamoros has been a hot spot of the migration crisis that has seen nearly 3 million people illegally cross into the US from Mexico since Oct. 1, 2020, according to DHS figures.

Many migrants who ended up here were directed to Esencia Urbana (Urban Essence) Church and Barberi, known as the “hip-hop pastor” for organizing concerts of Christian-oriented rap.

Dulce Refugio acquired an international profile and received contributions from around the world, which turned out to be a double-edged sword when donors’ attention shifted to the war in Ukraine.

“I have requested help from the American government, from the Mexican government, but we have not received support,” Barberi told Efe.

Yet the pastor plans to continue aiding migrants even after the shelter closes, albeit on a more modest scale, from his church.

“We don’t depend on the government, we depend on God,” Barberi said. EFE

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